General Education course descriptions

ENGGEN 100G Technological Choices for the New Millennium

This page describes the General Education course, ENGGEN 100G Technological Choices for the New Millennium. Includes the learning outcomes, topics covered, delivery format and timetable.




Semester Two, 2014


City Campus


The rapid development of technology in the 20th century contributed to extremes of power, privilege and poverty, yet the majority of technological choices for our communities are not made by scientists or engineers.

This course considers technological choices to support informed decision-making in the use of technology in modern society. The course focuses on important questions such as: What is the future direction of power generation in New Zealand? How can we create a sustainable future? Where will current developments in robotics and mobile communications lead us?

The aim will be to assist students to make sense of the overload of fact and opinion published on these important, current issues and debates.

Purpose (who should take this course and why)

This course is for students who recognise that as graduates they will be called on, in their personal and professional lives as teachers, planners, lawyers, business people, politicians and householders, to make decisions on how technology is used. In making those decisions they will balance idealism with technical reality and practicality amidst competing pressures. We welcome a diverse group of students from arts, commerce, law, education and other faculties – to provide stimulating and competing perspectives.

No assumptions will be made regarding scientific or mathematical background.

This course cannot be taken if you have a concurrent or prior enrolment in a course in any of the following subjects: CHEM, CHEMMAT, ENGGEN, GEOG, GEOLOGY or PHYSICS

Learning outcomes

The learning outcome for this course is to empower students to:

  • Have a basic understanding of the theory underpinning technological choices.
  • Recognise practicalities of options in terms of resource usage, cost, limitations and risks.
  • Recognise influences stemming from political, social, economic, cultural and even religious pressures.
  • Gain an understanding of ideas and methods across disciplines.
  • Respect the values of other individuals and group.

Topics covered/course outline

Content will be grouped around four themes focused by current provocative questions

  • Energy
    Is nuclear power the only practical solution to our energy demands?
    Should private air travel be taxed?
  • Infrastructure
    Will water be the new oil?
    Should private cars inside the central city area be banned?
    How big should our cities be?
  • Information and Communication
    Are cell phones safe?
    How will faster internet connections impact on the welfare/ standard of living of NZ / global society?
  • Innovation
    for 2009 – Nanotechnology
    How small can, or should, we go?

Topics such as these will be presented in a non technical, but comprehensible way providing a balance of perspectives which differentiate between idealism, fact and practicality, and the competing pressures of politics, economics and social factors.

Delivery format

Two lectures per week and one tutorial session. The tutorial session will usually be structured as an interactive discussion, but may include ‘out of classroom’ experiences eg in a computer laboratory, field trip or demonstration/activity in specialist facilities.

Lecturers will predominantly come from the Faculty of Engineering but to ensure the recognition of a variety of perspectives contributions will be drawn from across disciplines and possibly from the community.


10%  Library project
20%  Two short written assignments
10%  Poster and oral presentation
60%  Examination


Readings will be provided where appropriate.
Extensive use will be made of internet links incorporating text, video and animation.

Course coordinator

Name: Associate Professor Joe Deans
Extn: 88109